In terms of talent, the University of Minnesota soccer program is somewhere it has not been in a number of years. Without losing a single player to graduation last season and with the addition of another stellar recruiting class, the Golden Gophers are deeper and more talented than they have been in perhaps a decade.
Fourth-year head coach Mikki Denney Wright has put a premium on recruiting the top players not only from the state of Minnesota, but also throughout the entire country. The result has been three straight recruiting classes ranked in the top 10 in the region.
Upon their arrival in 2004, Denney Wright and her staff put a premium on player development. That philosophy has paid dividends more over the past year than ever before, as every player returns stronger than they were a year ago.
The combination of talent and depth has produced competition for nearly every spot in the starting lineup heading into the season, which bodes well for the Gophers as they look to continue their rise to prominence.
“Minnesota Soccer belongs at the top of the Big Ten,” Denney Wright said about her program. “Our kids believe that and have bought into getting it there.”
It has been 10 years (1997) since the Golden Gophers won their last Big Ten title, the same season in which Minnesota last hosted the conference tournament. With 2007 marking the 10th anniversary of both events, the Gophers will celebrate by honoring the best team in program history and hosting the Big Ten Tournament at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium (held November 8-11) for the first time.
“We’re excited to bring the Big Ten Women’s Soccer Tournament to the state of Minnesota,” Denney Wright said. “We’re very proud of that and we’re ready to show our fans and the rest of the conference that we can be really competitive in the Big Ten.”
With another year of experience under their belts and another crop of top talent added to the mix, the Gophers appear poised to climb in the Big Ten standings and return to prominence.
“We’re still young, but in terms of talent, we’re somewhere that Minnesota has not been in a long time,” Denny Wright said. “Now it’s a matter of putting that talent together and performing.”
COMING NEXT: Minnesota's forwards at a glance.